This episode granted my wish for all the good things — especially the good thing called Seo Ha-joon, the loyalest, most puppy-hearted marshmallow ever. On the downside, Soo-ah’s close to breaking, her secret under threat. But when you get to spend some quality time with resident sunbeam Yeon-doo, as her friends do today, the downsides really don’t matter so much.
I’ve got to admit I’m not sure what Sassy’s endgame is right now — but that isn’t a bad thing at all, because I’m loving every minute of the journey. Whatever, destination! Let’s just keep going like this forever! For four more episodes. Sob.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Soo-ah runs up to the third floor corridor. Looking up at the security camera, she’s haunted by the thought of Yeon-doo discovering she’s the culprit. Returning to the dorm, she stares at Yeon-doo a long moment, before retreating to her own corner.
Yeon-doo gets a message from Hyo-shik — it’s the video he took of her with Yeol. She snorts at the hilarious accompanying message (“For Kang Yeon-doo, drowning in loneliness since her mister left…”) and chuckles at the video. But she notices something else, and exclaims she’s found the evidence to clear Yeol. Soo-ah turns in anxiety.
Yeon-doo and Ha-joon run to meet each other in excitement. She shows him the video, and we clearly see Teacher Im in the background, bear-USB on the counter. Putting it away, he leaves first. But Yeol was seen in the staffroom at 12, and the video is timestamped 12.58. “Therefore, Kim Yeol did not steal the USB at 12 pm from the staffroom,” Yeon-doo concludes, snapping her fingers. She holds out her hand for a low five, and giggles when Ha-joon bashfully obliges.
She stops him from calling Yeol right away — good news is best delivered in person. They’ll do it tonight, she says.
She sneaks out after everyone’s asleep, but a teacher’s up working in the lounge. Ha-joon is about to walk into the situation unawares, so she makes a run for him. In their haste, he trips. The teacher finishes up, and the pair hide, waiting for him to leave. Yeon-doo quietly fusses over Ha-joon’s scrape, when the teacher looms over them. Haha, oops.
Yeol lies in bed at home, reading. He laughs quietly at the photo Yeon-doo sent of her and Ha-joon getting punished for their attempted jailbreak, and even feels a little jealous of their punishment.
The pair are forced to duck-walk under the teacher’s watchful eye. Clutching her earlobes, Yeon-doo apologizes to Ha-joon for getting him punished, but he just smiles quietly to himself, totally glad to be there. He steadies her the moment she whimpers in pain. So so cute.
Back in his dorm, he grins over their punishment photo. Noticing the scrape he got before, he applies the ointment Yeon-doo gave him last time. Just everything is making him smile right now, aw.
Yeon-doo hides out in the laundry room and chats with Yeol on the phone, both of them grinning like loons. Or best friends. Yeon-doo tells him how glad she is that they can exonerate him, but Yeol says they still have to prove he didn’t do it after 12.58. But he reassures her that Meitantei Yeol is on the case, and she ribs him about his big head.
“Thank you. For believing me,” he says. Not as first-place Kim Yeol, but as simply himself. It’s the hardest thing in the world to put your trust in someone wholly, he tells her, “So it was a little less hard for me, because I had someone who believed in me.”
He’s back at school the next day, and Yeon-doo and Ha-joon see him to the Principal’s office. Inside, Teachers Im and Yang are also present, along with Instructor Nam, as Principal Choi reviews the evidence.
Teacher Im churlishly asserts Yeol could have stolen the USB after the video. Unperturbed, Yeol asks when he first discovered it was missing. Around 1.55, Im replies. In proper Yeol-style, he systematically lays out the timeline, grilling Teacher Im on his movements.
Im had it at 12.58, and it took him two minutes to come to class, where his bag was in the teacher’s desk until 1.50, when class ended. Yeol points out that it’s not possible for him to have stolen it with the whole class looking on, but Im argues that he could have taken it after. Nope, says Yeol. Im left as soon as class was up, and Yeol went straight to the club room with the cheerleading kids. Instructor Nam confirms his alibi.
Choi wants to know how it came to be in his bag. Yeol leans over and slips his watch into Teacher Im’s pocket, and asks if that’s the same as him stealing it. Understanding fills Teacher Yang’s face. Yeol asks if he can now return to school.
Yeon-doo frets with Ha-joon about the meeting, and he finds it strange how she’s so worried about someone else’s problems. She scoffs that he always says the opposite of what he means — she knows he’s a marshmallow inside. He protests, and she says that right there is it — he gets angry because he doesn’t know his own heart. She tells him to get along with it better, tapping him lightly on the chest.
Students buzz as Yeol, vindicated, walks down the corridors. In the classroom, the kids fawn over him, professing worry. Worry about what, Yeol asks innocently — their rank dropping? Yeol’s tone is light but his words are damning. They whine that he won’t be lending out his notes anymore, and grinning, Yeol tells them his grudges are no joke.
Principal Choi worries about the same thing to Teacher Im — she’s sure Yeol is going to hit back at them. If they don’t keep him in his place, he’ll hold it over them until he graduates.
Teacher Yang addresses the class. He confirms Yeol’s innocence, and the school’s resolve to now find the true culprit. But, he tells them, when they go down the wrong path, all they have to do is come back. His words make Soo-ah look up, caught between hope and fear. For whoever holds out their hand, Yang promises to take it and bring them back, “So I hope you gather the courage, no matter what.”
On the rooftop, Yeol, Ha-joon and Yeon-doo celebrate with coke toasts. About to pop his open, he takes a sly look at Yeon-doo and starts vigorously shaking his can. Seeing that makes her remember her trick way back (that ended with their not-kiss in episode 1), and she runs away, hiding behind Ha-joon. Yeol demands his revenge, calling Ha-joon a traitor. He tells him to choose — him or Yeon-doo? Him, of course, says Ha-joon…but Yeon-doo is crazy strong, he laughs, still shielding her.
Soo-ah listens in consternation as the team asks Yeol about taking a makeup test for the missed midterm. She calls Director Lee, who meets her mom. Mom is dismayed that Soo-ah’s new rank could be threatened, but Lee says a makeup test is unlikely since the results are already out and other parents wouldn’t stand for it.
Principal Choi tells Yeol that he won’t get a resit, but the midterm marks will be omitted from his final grade. Yeol rejects this as unfair — the fact that he didn’t take the midterm was the school’s fault. The only answer is a resit, he says. No resit, no matter what, Choi returns.
Yeol’s dad marches into the school, flanked on each side by lawyers. Choi is stumped by the threat of legal action and stammers excuses, which Dad agrees with easily. Heartened, Choi says that Yeol is sure to earn his rank back even without midterms.
Dad says the grades are not the issue now; he wants the school to rectify the wrong against his son — with a makeup test. She still demurs. His counsel take over, and explain that they will do two things: seek compensation for his unfair suspension, and sue for defamation. She listens, dumbstruck.
Dad faces Yeol, and tells him that he’ll pursue the case to the end, if Yeol wants it. Laconic, Yeol notes that he’s singing a different tune now, and turns on his heel. But he pauses when Dad calls out an apology. “I should have said this first: ‘I believe you.'”
Yeol almost looks back, but then swallows and goes on his way.
Dad meets Yeon-doo’s mom, and says that saying sorry to Yeol was scarier than meeting the president. She pats him reassuringly, and says that just three things — I’m sorry, thank you, I love you — are enough for a kid to grow on. But she agrees that raising a kid is tough. He nudges her about his proposal, and vows to be a good dad to her daughter. She promises to give more thought to it.
Hyo-shik carries the news of the lawyers’ visit to the clubroom, where Soo-ah hears of it. Phones are ringing off the hook in the staffroom as angry parents call up, and in her office, Choi has a meltdown. She yells at Teacher Im to take responsibility and stop Yeol.
Soo-ah studies alone in the clubroom when Yeol joins her. Offhand, he asks her how she’s finding being number one. Just as offhand, she replies that it’s been noisy lately, with all the fuss over his resit or whatever. With a shrewd smile, he asks if the prospect worries her.
Yeon-doo comes to collect him, and Soo-ah is reminded of her combing the CCTV footage. She goes to the security office and finds out that the hall cameras are managed by an external company. A little later, Director Lee hurries in and tells Soo-ah that the video’s been deleted. However, another student, who can’t be revealed, already took a copy. The suggestion of involving her mom panics Soo-ah and she begs Lee to keep it secret.
Yeon-doo commends Yeol on his revenge, and laughs when he extols his own flawless amazing head-to-toe perfection. It’s washed out her crappy feelings about the school, too, she says. He practically purrs when she pats him on the head, ha, but tells her it’s not over until it’s over.
Teacher Im patrols the corridors and thrusts his chin out fiercely at the sight of Yeol. Yeol tells him that he’ll be submitting a formal complaint about him, and turns away with a Cheshire-cat smile. Im clutches at him and cajoles him not to misunderstand.
Yeol treats the club to fried chicken, although the boys wonder if it’s okay. Teacher Im bursts in, and Yeol casually leans back to show himself, causing the teacher’s immediate retreat. A quick flashback shows Yeol saying that their misunderstanding could be resolved if Im refrained from giving his friends unfair penalty points.
Yeol asks Principal Choi for a favor, to renew Teacher Yang’s contract. If she grants it, he’ll stop demanding a resit exam, and drop the lawsuit. She’s surprised he’s taking an interest in anyone other than Ha-joon, but Yeol counters that Yang is not just anyone — he’s their homeroom teacher, and a good person. She agrees to think about it.
Soo-ah opens her locker in the clubroom, and is met by a flash drive and note, labelling it the thing she’s looking for. I can’t get enough of how perfect their clothes-slogans are: “UGH AS IF,” reads Soo-ah’s jumper.
It’s the incriminating video. She snaps her laptop shut as Jae-young and Na-yeon enter. Losing it, she screams at them, demanding to know who was just in here.
In her hideout area, she tries to destroy it. Dong-jae appears and she screams at him, too, for always seeing her at her worst. Ever unflappable, he advises her to just tell everything, if it’s so bad. She stares at him. A moment later, she asks if he’s been in the clubroom today. In fact, he was, he tells her.
Meanwhile, Director Lee tells Soo-ah’s mom that they successfully blocked Yeol’s resit. Now they brainstorm on how to appease the kids about Soo-ah, after all the sexual harassment fiasco. They still need to compete together at the cheerleading competition, after all.
Instructor Nam and Teacher Yang both shake their heads at the kids’ performance in practice, particularly Dong-jae’s solo. Since midterms are over, Nam suggests to Teacher Yang that they all go camping and get in lots of practice.
To their shock, Principal Choi agrees right away, and Teacher Yang even questions whether she has some ulterior motive. They’re further shocked when they hear Soo-ah’s mom will cover all the expenses. Teacher Im is pretty proud of himself when he figures it out — this must be how Soo-ah’s mom wants to absolve herself of their part in Yang’s false accusation. Choi glares.
As team captain, Yeon-doo prepares to leave early on the morning of the trip. Dong-jae surprises her by showing up, and she realizes she hasn’t been spending much time with him lately. She pouts in apology, and he pouts back. Laughing now, he hands over a strawberry milk. She sighs happily that the strawberry milk he gives her is the best. They set off with Teacher Yang.
The rest of the kids hop about in excitement, which is dampened when Teacher Im joins their party. He immediately starts picking on them for makeup and dyed hair, until Yeol intervenes. He heels and everyone’s moods perk up again. Yeol is adorably put out to find that Yeon-doo’s gone ahead — with Strawberry Milk, at that. It’s even funnier that Ha-joon isn’t bothered at all.
Finally, everyone collects at the campsite. Their trip’s concept is to go analogue and enjoy nature, Teacher Yang announces, and he takes away their phones to a chorus of whines. He sends them off to find refreshing activities.
The majority of the group gather together for snacks. They speculate on who might have framed Yeol, although Jae-young points out that everybody‘s standing improves with Yeol gone. Soo-ah sits apart, watching. Remembering Hyo-shik sent the video to Yeon-doo, she begins to suspect him. Her attention then shifts to Dong-jae, and then to Yeol. Wow, she’s driving herself crazy with suspicion. Returning to her tent, she brushes past Yeon-doo on her way out.
Soo-ah opens her bag to another pink note: “Deadline!!” it reads. She has until tonight’s campfire to confess. Now she suspects Yeon-doo, too, and goes out to look for her.
Since she’s been abandoned by the mischievous young ‘uns, Yeol helps Yeon-doo organize. He grins that she’s a pro at this captain thing, and she agrees — she’s like her dad that way. He notes it’s the first time she’s mentioned him, and she says she doesn’t do it too often, but it’s nice to sometimes. She says his dad was cool, though.
Yeol admits he hardly ever sees him — neither parent was really ever around. Yeon-doo smiles warmly, and praises him for growing up so well nevertheless. He ducks her head-pat, all laughs again.
Hyo-shik is back to catch them at dallying, and Yeol gives him a friendly telling-off. Teacher Yang finds the three of them slacking and sends the boys off to fetch firewood.
He sends Yeon-doo to get more drinks, but she’ll have to hurry since the local shop closes early. Soo-ah rounds a corner in time to hear him advise her to take someone to help with the lifting. Just as she’s about to leave with the groundskeeper, who’s giving her a lift, Soo-ah invites herself along, saying she needs something. Yeon-doo scowls to herself.
She finishes her shop while Soo-ah watches, arms crossed. She brings up Yeon-doo’s CCTV trawl, but she’s shocked by the sight of a pad of pink sticky notes in Yeon-doo’s bag — the same paper as the notes she’s been getting. Soo-ah fixes her with a hard look.
The girls head back to the car, but Yeon-doo needs to make a trip to the bathroom. She asks Soo-ah to carry the stuff to the car, but takes it back when she remembers who she’s asking. But Soo-ah surprises her by complying, and even offers to take her bag. This can’t end well.
Soo-ah hurries into the car and tells the ajusshi that Yeon-doo’s waiting for another teacher, so they should go on ahead. By the time Yeon-doo comes back, there’s no sign of them. By now, the shop’s closed, too, and she remembers her phone is with Teacher Yang.
Yeol searches the campsite for Yeon-doo and hears from Da-mi that she went on an errand. The girls clock Soo-ah’s arrival, and she tells them she was taking a walk alone. She steals a glance at Yeol and escapes.
Ha-joon roams the camp looking for Yeon-doo, too. Dong-jae is able to tell him that she went with the groundskeeper on an errand.
Back in her tent, Soo-ah opens her bag to find a new note. This one says that running away doesn’t solve anything, and she has half an hour left. She realizes with alarm that the note-leaver can’t have been Yeon-doo.
The party enjoy the barbecue, but Yeol and Ha-joon jog up to tell Teacher Yang that Yeon-doo is still missing (but why weren’t you worried before, Saem?!). Yang leaves Teacher Im in charge, and dashes off with the boys.
Yeon-doo walks alone down an empty road in the dark, looking scared. She trips, grazing her knee, and slumps on the ground, close to tears.
Teacher Yang and the boys find the groundskeeper’s office locked. Ha-joon rides off on a bike he finds, to scour the area for her.
Since there’s no cell signal, Yeol and Teacher Yang break into the office to use the phone. Yeal reaches the groundskeeper and whatever he hears sends him charging back while Yang follows.
Yeol catches sight of Soo-ah, who seems to be stumbling around in shock. In quiet rage, he asks her where Yeon-doo is. Her ignorant act raises his ire and shaking her, he roars at her to tell him.
Ha-joon pedals furiously along the empty road. Suddenly, he leaps off and hits the ground running — he’s found her.
Tearstained and bleeding, she breaks down at the sight of him. She hobbles into his arms, crying, and he wraps her up in a hug.
How many times is Soo-ah going to betray Yeon-doo, really? Still, I have to credit the show, and especially Chae Soo-bin, for keeping us hopeful about her character. While crossing every line, she still exhibits an agony of spirit that makes you stay with her. But her denial runs deep — eaten alive by guilt and suspicion, could this be the crisis to break her of it? It was strange to finally see her first moment of genuine — and properly expressed — gratitude, when she thanks Director Lee for taking care of the video (although ultimately it didn’t help). Not only that, but she even requests, not demands, Lee’s help. So I haven’t given up on her yet, even if Yeon-doo’s breakdown at the end nearly had me in tears, too.
The mystery of the notes is surprisingly impenetrable (…or is it?). It can’t be Teacher Yang, he would never manipulate a student that way — I assumed it must be Yeol. He’d definitely have the resources to acquire that video, plus he’s tenacious with his revenge. He’s also been watching Soo-ah from the background, and forcing her hand is his style. But he seems strangely oblivious to her growing distress, and I’m entertaining the possibility that it could be someone unexpected. Dong-jae or Ha-joon? But both of them are far too straitlaced. What do you guys think?
But what a big change for Yeol, to use his revenge as a means to help his friends. Moreover, that “friends” now means all of the club kids, Baek Ho and Real King alike, and even includes Teacher Yang. It’s an indication of the kind of adult Yeol is on the road to becoming; incisive and astute, he’s skilled at political skulduggery, but he remains rooted to his values. It makes him a better foil to Principal Choi than even Teacher Yang, because power is everything and Yang doesn’t have it, adult or no. Although Yeon-doo finds the loneliness in his core, as she points out to him, everyone has it. The conversation about their parents was light, but deep, which is very characteristic of Yeon-doo. It meets the particular wavelength of her new friends in a way that moves them and makes them feel understood, but also makes them confide in ways they don’t with anyone else. She inspires the trust not only of the boys (including Dong-jae), but Jae-young and Na-yeon are also “hers” now.
The group integration continues, and it’s warming to see things like Da-mi lovingly sandwiched between Jae-young and Na-yeon, old walls forgotten. The show made it clear at the outset that Yeol and Ha-joon were outsiders, despite their elite status. In a quiet callback to the old status quo, the boys remain subtly apart from the group gathered for the trip where Yeon-doo’s already gone ahead — because she’s still sometimes their bridge to the others. But they and Soo-ah are special cases.
I’m trying to figure out what it means, what the writers want to tell us, that Ha-joon gets to her first. They could easily have made that Yeol, but it’s an outcome that further cements my hope that this show won’t ultimately disappoint. In giving it to Ha-joon, I feel like it’s a retroactive mission statement about the entire show: “In this world, friendship comes first.”. It made me think about how it’s different to You’re Beautiful, where prickly hero Tae-kyung always beat out sweet second-lead Shin-woo to get the girl, even though Shin-woo always moved first. In our story, everyone gets to be a hero. Leaving out genre-typical rivalries and ego battles, it keeps character choices in the spirit of the show. Things are messier, but truer, in a really good way.
I also like how it illustrates the way inseparable friends, Yeol and Ha-joon, are different. It’s Ha-joon’s instinct-driven nature that throws him headlong and feelings-first into tracking down Yeon-doo in person, while Yeol uses his head. We’ve seen Yeol’s systematic problem-solving in action a lot. He has a way of instantly analyzing a situation and then shooting to fix it at the highest level he can reach — he doesn’t go for the infantry if he can take out the commander. Generally speaking, he’s willing to bide his time if it’s most effective, whereas Ha-joon tends to be the emergency ground response. Neither is inherently better or worse, but with its unexpected results, it’s a difference I enjoy, and it makes cerebral Yeol falling for Yeon-doo even cuter (if that’s even possible!).
My favorite, favorite thing, though: Seo! Ha! Joon! Friendtimes with Yeon-doo! Seriously guys, I don’t know why this one friendship makes me live, but it does. Having another friend just makes Ha-joon so happy that I’m mad at the universe for withholding from him all this time. Gruffness notwithstanding, it’s obvious how much he cherishes every moment of friendship and connection with Yeon-doo, to the point of joyfully taking punishment (“I am Spartacus”!). But there are moments when I feel a twinge of sadness because it seems like he’s stockpiling good memories — against the bad that is sure to come? How lonely has he been all this time?
Not that Yeol hasn’t been a good friend, but Yeon-doo’s different. She exudes an optimism and spirit that grows Ha-joon in a completely different way — to go from merely surviving to ardently living, and determined to go down fighting. Or, not go down at all. When she tells him, so lightly, to get along with his heart better, with just a few words, she cuts right to the heart of him. I love it. I’m almost willing to forgo Yeon-doo—Yeol moments for more of this. Almost! But this show is so generous, it’s already given me so much more than I hoped for. Sassy Go Go, fighting!